Coming to terms with COVID-19 – a small business perspective.

Today I decided to interview Paul Smith (Co-Founder / Director of production) about how CGEye is coping with the current business environment. Small companies around the world have been struggling to keep work thriving and have found themselves in unfortunate situations. Here’s Paul’s plans for the present and future of the company. 

Interview picture

How efficient has your work been during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Because we’re in the field of digital production, there are no barriers to our work for the most part so we’re about 85% efficient and improving. That means that our team can remotely log in to their computers from home and carry on pretty much as normal.

 

What changes and restrictions have you made to keep the company running as normal as possible?

We’ve found it necessary to furlough some team members, which means we’ve had to re-align our projects and deadlines. The lead times are in some cases a little longer as a result. We’ve informed our clients of the situation and they’re very understanding.

I’ve had a more active role recently, more or less as a co-ordinator and troubleshooter if there are any issues, such as machine freezes or other technical matters. I’m also involved in a little CGI production myself, just like old times! I’m lucky in that I live close to the studio, so have been able to come in every day and work in isolation.

Our day-to-day communication within the team is different now of course. We’ve set up a WhatsApp group and are constantly communicating through that during the working day. Even getting the usual banter in!

What noticeable effect has the pandemic had on the company?

Actually it might have a number of positive effects, despite the obvious challenges. For example it’s forced us to re-evaluate our working practices, since some of our shortcomings have been exposed through working remotely. When we return to relative normality, I expect us to be far more streamlined in our operation. It’s good to constantly question yourselves anyway, but even more so in this situation.

How did your company prepare for the forthcoming lockdown and what were your main concerns or worries?

As business owners our first instinct was ‘How is our turnover going to be affected, and how will we make sure we can cover our costs and wages?’ The first week or so saw the mothballing of some projects so we felt as a precaution we should furlough some of the team. My business partner Martin also took the decision to furlough himself, leaving day-to-day running to me. This is something we discussed and agreed prior to it happening. Even before the lockdown though we’d taken the decision to arrange for the team to work at home. Some of us have family members in vulnerable groups, including NHS staff, so it was really a no-brainer. We ensured remote access would be suitable for all staff, and as I speak we’ve had no significant issues with this arrangement.

How do you foresee the future for your company after the pandemic?

It’s an interesting question, and there are some very clear pointers. We’ve seen a growing interest in virtual CGI tours in recent weeks for obvious reasons, and I honestly think that even after the pandemic, Virtual Reality will play a big role in how house builders market their sites. That’s good news for me personally because I love VR and we’re getting involved on a more regular basis.

Further to that, I expect a surge of projects coming through for companies like ours as restrictions ease. Developers will be keen to get their marketing machines into overdrive as buyers suddenly flood back to their sites. Anybody not preparing for this now might be left with their pants down. This is probably why we’re already seeing an upturn in work as we enter the 40th day of lockdown.